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Facebook commits $20 mn to fight COVID-19

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SAN FRANCISCO:

As the world grapples with the novel coronavirus, Facebook has committed $20 million in donations to fight the disease.

The social networking giant worked with the United Nations Foundation and the World Health Organization to start a COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, where anyone can go to make a donation.

“Facebook is matching up to $10 million in donations, and 100% of funds will directly support the work to prevent, detect and respond to the outbreak around the world,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on the social media platform on Friday.

“We’ll also match $10 million for the CDC Foundation, which will launch a fundraiser in the next few weeks focused on combating the outbreak here in the US,” he added.

Facebook said on Friday that it is committing to match $20 million in donations, a fraction of its quarterly profit, to support global relief efforts for COVID-19 coronavirus.

Mark Zuckerberg, the social juggernaut’s chief executive, said Facebook was committing $10 million for the United Nations Foundation (UNF) and World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and an additional $10 million for the CDC Foundation, which will launch its Facebook Fundraiser in the coming weeks.

According to a report in TechCrunch, Chinese ride-hailing giant DiDi Chuxing on Friday announced a $10 million special relief fund for drivers and couriers in its international markets.

Among other tech giants, Microsoft and Amazon this week committed $1 million each to COVID-19 Response Fund.

To support COVID-19 relief efforts, Google.org and Google employees have donated more than $1 million.

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Facebook Staffers Walk Out Saying Trump’s Posts Should Be Reined In

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Facebook employees walked away from their work-from-home desks on Monday and took to Twitter to accuse Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg of inadequately policing US President Donald Trump’s posts as strictly as the rival platform has done.

Reuters saw dozens of online posts from employees critical of Zuckerberg’s decision to leave Trump’s most inflammatory verbiage unchallenged where Twitter had labeled it. Some top managers participated in the protest, reminiscent of a 2018 walkout at Alphabet’s Google over sexual harassment.

It was a rare case of staff publicly taking their CEO to task, with one employee tweeting that thousands participated. Among them were all seven engineers on the team maintaining the React code library which supports Facebook’s apps.

“Facebook’s recent decision to not act on posts that incite violence ignores other options to keep our community safe. We implore the Facebook leadership to #TakeAction,” they said in a joint statement published on Twitter.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is facebook_react_code_team_statement_against_zuckerberg_stand_trump_post-1024x576.png

Photo Credit: Twitter

“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” wrote Ryan Freitas, identified on Twitter as director of product design for Facebook’s News Feed. He added he had mobilized “50+ likeminded folks” to lobby for internal change.

A Facebook employee said Zuckerberg’s weekly Friday question-and-answer session would be moved up this week to Tuesday.

Katie Zhu, a product manager at Instagram, tweeted a screenshot showing she had entered “#BLACKLIVESMATTER” to describe her request for time off as part of the walkout.

Facebook will allow employees participating in the protest to take the time off without drawing down their vacation days, spokesman Andy Stone said.

Separately, online therapy company Talkspace said it ended partnership discussions with Facebook. Talkspace CEO Oren Frank tweeted he would “not support a platform that incites violence, racism, and lies.”

Social justice
Tech workers at companies including Facebook, Google, and Amazon have pursued social justice issues in recent years, urging the companies to change policies.

Employees “recognise the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community,” Stone wrote in a text.

“We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership. As we face additional difficult decisions around content ahead, we’ll continue seeking their honest feedback.”

Last week, nationwide unrest erupted after the death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis last Monday. Video footage showed a white officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before he died.

On Friday, Twitter affixed a warning label to a Trump tweet that included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter said it violated rules against glorifying violence but was left up as a public interest exception.

Facebook declined to act on the same message, and Zuckerberg sought to distance his company from the fight between the president and Twitter.

On Friday, Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that while he found Trump’s remarks “deeply offensive,” they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence and people should know whether the government was planning to deploy force.

Zuckerberg’s post also said Facebook had been in touch with the White House to explain its policies.

Twitter used the same label as for Trump on Monday to hide a message by Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida that likened protesters to terrorists and called for them to be hunted down “like we do those in the Middle East.”

Gaetz said in response he would “see” Twitter in the Judiciary Committee.

Some of Facebook’s dissenting employees have praised Twitter for its response over Trump. Others, like Jason Toff, a director of product management and former head of short-form video app Vine, started organising fundraisers for racial justice groups in Minnesota. Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook on Monday the company would contribute an additional $10 million (roughly Rs. 75 crores) to social justice causes.

Toff tweeted: “I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we’re showing up. The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.”

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Modi hands over social media accounts to mark Women’s Day

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NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave prominent women control of his social media accounts on Sunday to mark International Women’s Day in a move critics dismissed as a publicity stunt.

A disability activist and a water campaigner were among the women who tweeted from Modi’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts where he has tens of millions of followers.

Their posts attracted thousands of likes and drew many positive responses across the platforms.

But some rights activists said Modi’s government should instead focus on reducing high levels of sexual violence and economic disadvantages faced by women in the largely conservative and patriarchal society.

“It is an attention-seeking move because you can’t answer what is happening in the country,” Shabnam Hashmi told the Press Trust of India.

“Women have become much worse off than what they were six years ago (when Modi came to power).”

Modi — one of the world’s most-followed politicians on social media — said Monday he was thinking of going offline before revealing his plan to “give away” his accounts to inspirational women.

“This will help them ignite motivation in millions,” he tweeted, calling for people to share stories with the hashtag #SheInspiresUs.

But young climate activist Licypriya Kangujam, who was tagged in a tweet from a government account, replied she did not want to be celebrated.

“Dear @narendramodi Ji, Please don’t celebrate me if you are not going to listen my voice,” she said Friday.

Violence against women in India has been in the spotlight since the brutal gang-rape and murder of a Delhi student on a bus in 2012.

Nearly 34,000 rapes were reported in 2018, according to official data, with activists claiming the figure is just the tip of the iceberg.

— Agence France-Presse

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Twitter Introduces ‘Continue Thread’ Option to Make Connecting Tweets Easier

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Twitter has announced a new feature that will help users dig through their tweets faster to update an older post with an update. The feature called ‘Continue Thread’ that makes it easier to connect an in-progress tweet to an earlier post.

Here’s how to use Continue Thread option on Twitter.com

  • Compose your tweet and then pull down to view older tweets.
  • Select the tweet you would like the new one to be added to. Your tweets are now connected.
  • You will just have to pull down to see earlier tweets and tap the “continue thread” or ellipsis button to find an older tweet to reply to.
  • Essentially, this is a new way to create topic threads and tweetstorms.

The micro-blogging platform has in the past allowed users to connect multiple tweets together while composing them but the new feature makes it faster to connect a new tweet to an old post.

Twitter has also acquired California-based Chroma Labs that develops tools for short-form video and photo creation.

It will help users fill in stylish layout templates and frames for posting collages and more.

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